Choirboy or punk rocker? Traditionalist or iconoclast? Folk singer or digital effects nerd? Grounded, yet ethereal. Cynical but sensitive. Peter Evans’ work embraces opposites. He combines seemingly irreconcilable styles to create unusual musical statements.
Evans studied folk music with Philadelphia Folksong Society co-founder George Britton in the ‘60’s. He began experimenting with tone generators, oscillators, and filters under the guidance of Lawrence Hoenig at Germantown Friends School in the ‘70’s. He has been singing professionally in acappella groups for 35 years, including the Yale Whiffenpoofs who made him their music director in 1980. He studied contemporary composition with Maury Yeston while majoring in Architecture at Yale. That’s some serious musical Mulligan Stew!
The result of time and pressure on this concoction is what Evans calls “Laptop Folk Music”. Songs in his “Cricket” CD (2010) follow the folk tradition of chronicling social and political subjects like religion & technology, gun control, life after life, and the mass media. Classic folk instruments are infused with digital effects. Vocal harmonies abound. Quirky humor and curious vocalizations add spice and surprise to the stew.
Jim “Jiff” Hinger was working at Stonecreek Studios when Evans first met him while recording with a vocal band, the Tonics, in 2001. Hinger engineered the multiple-Grammy sounds of Boyz 2 Men, owners of the Gladwyne, PA studio. One of the first projects for the Tonics was a percussion driven version of Fleetwood Mac’s “World Turning”. The piece used digital samples and loops of a cappella singing and Evans’ voice drumming. A creative opening appeared for Evans, and Hinger provided the technical prowess to support the exploration. The divergent threads of a cappella, digital sound engineering, and traditions of folk singing soon became interwoven.
Professionally, Evans had been renovating houses in a neighborhood that used to be a "streetcar suburb" of Philadelphia late in the 19th century. There Evans found block upon block of well built, handsome houses that had been neglected for generations. He used what was solid and salvageable, but updated the floor plans and the mechanicals to reflect current tastes and standards. Evans used the same aesthetic approach in returning to his folk roots to write music. The foundations like instrumentation, song structures, chord patterns and the folk ethos are fundamentally the same at those he absorbed in the 1960s from George Britton. The mixes have been digitally revamped to reflect the sonic expectations of a new generation of 21st century listeners.
By the time Evans put down his hammer, sold his houses, and spun off his business, most of the features of a professional analog studio could be replicated in bits and bytes on a personal computer or on compact digital recorders. In 2007, after finishing another Tonics CD “a la carte” with Hinger as the sound engineer, Evans outfitted a room in his home to be his sound studio and began experimenting with digital effects and composing the music for “Cricket”.
With an aversion for taking sides on subjects like personal injury law, Evans’ songs describe divergent points of view with a perceptive candor. On other tracks he snipes at the Starbucks culture or at the American proclivity for driving large SUVs. In these instances there is no mistaking his iconoclastic nature.
Jerry Gordon, founder of Evidence Records assesses Peter’s songs on the “Cricket” CD (2010) as clever, funny, well structured, innovative, cleverly arranged, chock-full of fabulous background vocals as well as terrific (and surprisingly different!) lead vocals.“ Don Gooding, founder of acappella.com and Hot Lips Records warned Peter that he was having “way too much fun” in recording the music for “Cricket”. 2009 Kerrville Folk Award Winner Louise Mosrie says the CD keeps cracking her up and that Peter has a “funky sense of humor”.